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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

HBCU Majorette Dance Line Terms

Edited by Azizi Powell

I'm an African American community folklorist who is interested in documenting and sharing information about HBCU majorette dance lines. I'm interested in this subject because HBCU dance lines are a part of African American culture which isn't well documented on the internet and may also not be well documented outside of the internet.

A number of posts on this pancocojams cultural blog showcase YouTube video examples of some HBCU dance lines along with selected comments from those videos' viewer discussion threads. These videos and those selected comments are presented for historical, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes. Click the "HBCU dance line" tag below to find those posts.

This post is my attempt to compile a list of HBCU majorette dance line terms. I'm making this attempt because I've not been able to find such a list online. I've compiled this list from reading a number of HBCU majorette dance line video discussion threads, reading other online articles on HBCU majorette dance lines, and reading other internet articles and blog discussion threads.

Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2016/08/hbcu-dance-line-terms-in-discussion.html for a pancocojams post with selected comments that include many of the terms which are on this list.

Disclaimer: By no means do I consider myself an expert on HBCU dance line cultures. I really need the help of HBCU majorette dancers and fans to add to and correct this list and improve the way these definitions are phrased.

Please share your additions and corrections in the comment section below. Thanks!

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LIST OF HBCU MAJORETTE DANCE LINE TERMS
Ace (n) - the HBCU majorette dancer who is the first one to dance singles after the captain

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Battle (v); (n) - a term for the competition that occurs between the dance lines of the two competing universities (and their marching bands) during a football game; although these dance lines don't compete face to face on a field or in the same section of the football stadium bleacher, there's still a competition going on, especially among fans of those HBCU dance lines, and fans of other HBCU dance lines that aren't performing in a particular football game

Read the comments that I wrote regarding "stand battle" in the second entry for "stands"

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Buck (v) - a dance movement that is a major element in many HBCU majorette dance lines, but every HBCU majorette dance line does not buck; "bucking" refers to performing pelvic thrusts (pelvic contractions) in time to the music; "bucking" in HBCU majorette dance lines isn't the same as the African American originated fast foot work known as "buck dancing" and "buck jumping" that are precursors of tap dancing (buck and a wing), flatfooting, and clogging

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Bucking arrangements (n) - a referent for music that sounds like it would be good for bucking (because of taht music's percussive nature)

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Buck down (v) - to buck real hard (real good)

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Captain (n) - the leader of the dance line; the captain stands in front of the other dancers during performance; the captain throws (calls) counts, and often choreographs dance routines, the captain is a strong dancer who shows leadership abilities and who is chosen by the director of that majorette dance line; in some dance line, the captain must be a junior or a senior

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Counts (n)- a reference for a HBCU dance performance; the term "counts" is used in many other dance genres; here's a quote from http://www.ehow.com/facts_7194768_8-count-mean-dancing_.html
"Significance
When learning or practicing dance, most songs are broken up into segments or units called 8-counts. Each of these segments is measured in counts of eight beats, or how long it would take to count out "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8" in a rhythmic fashion. Once the count of eight is reached, dancers start over from one and a new segment begins.

Function
Dancers and choreographers use 8-counts on a regular basis to learn and teach dancing because most popular dance forms are based on 8-counts, which are essentially two 4-count measures back-to-back.

Fun Fact
Even though the majority of dance styles are based around 8-count divisions, the number of counts in each segment can vary. Certain styles of dance can feature 3-count, 6-count, and even 12-count segments."
-end of quote-
Some commenters in HBCU dance line discussion threads referred to 16 count routines.

In HBCU dance line culture, "counts" are also known as "cadences", and "stands"; in HBCU dance lines, each count is known by a specific name, new counts are choreographed each season, but a dance line may perform certain count routines for decades or may only slightly revise an older count that was well received by the dance line's fans; although Bring It!, the nationally televised (United States) series on majorette youth dance lines uses the term "stands", it appears from my reading that most HBCU majorette dance lines and fans of those dance lines use the term "counts". Read the definition below for the term "throw counts"

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Crab (n)- a first year member of a HBCU dance line, often a university freshman; according to MACKG, a commenter on http://www.hbcusports.com/forums/threads/whats-a-crab.8534/ "What's a Crab?", May 30, 2002
"..."most Freshmen are known as CRABS. When I was a crab in the band...they said Freshmen wondered* about the campus lost all over the place like a CRAB fresh out of the water. Hence the term CRAB."
-snip-
*wondered = a typo for "wandered"

Notice that this term is also used in HBCU marching bands. On a HBCU dance line (and probably also in HBCU marching bands) the opposite of a "crab" is a "vet" (veteran); the term "seasoned vet" may also be used, meaning that dance member knows what she is doing on that dance squad because she has been a member of that squad for two or more years

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Dance Line (n) - a team (group, squad) of HBCU majorette dancers; also known as "dance squad", "dance team"; HBCU majorette dance lines are auxiliaries of their university's marching band and perform to the instrumental music played by that marching band; each year dancers (including previous members) must audition for a spot on that team. For example, click http://www.southerndigest.com/article_674b99ab-a7e5-5f02-b11b-d126a6b56855.html for an article about the requirements to be a member of Southern University's Dancing Dolls.

HBCU dance lines perform during their university's football game competitions, perform off season at their university's basketball games, and also march in university parades and other university events; some HBCU majorette dance lines or members of those dance lines have also performed in other venues such as back-ups in recording stars' videos or live performances including the Superbowl; as of this date, HBCU dance lines only consist of females; unlike HBCU step teams or HBCU cheerleaders, HBCU dance lines are always silent when they perform, the university's dance line has a given name which may be similar to the name of their marching band (for example, Texas Southern University's Marching Band is named "Ocean of Soul" and their dance line is named "Motion of the Ocean".

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Field Show (n) - performances that the HBCU marching band accompanied by its majorette dance line does in the football stadium field during a game's half time

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HBCU (n) = Historical Black Colleges And Universities
From http://sites.ed.gov/whhbcu/one-hundred-and-five-historically-black-colleges-and-universities/ "The Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, defines an HBCU as: “…any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans, and that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association determined by the Secretary [of Education] to be a reliable authority as to the quality of training offered or is, according to such an agency or association, making reasonable progress toward accreditation.” HBCUs offer all students, regardless of race, an opportunity to develop their skills and talents."...
-snip-
Almost all HBCUs are in the southern region of the United States. Click a link on that page for a list of HBCUs.

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Jsetting (n)- a term that has become a generic reference by the general public for the types of dancing that are performed by HBCU majorette dance lines, however this term isn't used by majorette dance lines themselves; the term comes from the name of Jackson State University's majorette dance line, the Prancing J-Settes.

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Majorettes (n) - according to http://www.thefreedictionary.com/majorette, the definition of majorette is
"1. A female dancer who twirls a baton, usually in a group and sometimes with a marching band.
2. A drum majorette.
-snip-
It should be noted that males also have performed and still perform as majorettes. However, the reason why the all female HBCU dance lines have been referred to as "majorette dance lines" is because these dance teams began as twirling baton majorette squads.

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Marching band (n) - a HBCU majorette dance line is an auxiliary of the university's marching band; the band plays instrumental music and the dance line performs with that music; sometime the name of their majorette dance line is similar to the name of the marching band (for example "The Crimson Pipers is the name of Tuskegee University's marching band and "Piperettes" is the name of that university's dance line.

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Ramp kick (n) - a custom found in many HBCU dance lines or individual members performing the same high kick when they begin to climb the ramp to their seats in the football stadium

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Routines (dance routines) (n) - a referent for the choreography that is performed by the HBCU majorette dancers

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Singles (n) - a referent for individual count performances that are done one at a time by HBCU majorette dance line members, the last person to perform her count is the tail, who purposely ends with a showy, elongated movement; in some video, the captain is shown raising her right arm straight above her head to signal to the dance line to perform singles

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Stands (n) - a referent for the football stadium bleachers; the HBCU marching bands and their dance line auxiliaries perform in the stands during football games

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Stands (stand routines) (n) - another way of saying "counts", a referent for a HBCU majorette dance lines' performance of counts in the stands of the football stadium; the term "count" is used much more often in the HBCU video comments that I've read than the term "stands", however the term "stands" may be gaining in popularity because it and not "counts" is the term that is used on Bring It!, the national television series about Jackson, Mississippi's Dancing Dolls and other youth j-setting squads.

Note that the term "battle stands" (a face to face competition between two majorette dance squads or the captains of those squads) which has been popularized by the Bring It! television series and which occurs at gay male j-setting team events doesn't appear to be used by HBCU dance lines because that type of face to face competition rarely [never?] occurs. That said, there are some off-season majorette competitions where HBCU dance squads perform one at a time in a gymnasium setting*, but "battle stands" don't occur during those events

*The Asymmetrix Indoor Nationals Competition is an example of majorette dance lines competing against each other. Here's a link for a video of a 2012 competition in which four HBCU university dance lines participated https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRsJX1UuMZw
Essence of Troy danceline from VSU performing at The Asymmetrix Indoor Nationals Competition"
-snip-
Update: 8/3/2016: I've found comments about "stand battles" in this discussion thread of HBCU marching band Morris Brown College and Tennessee State University https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2ybU5Zn5TA. "Stand Battle" refers to the marching bands musically competing against each other in the stands (bleachers) of the football field. That definition is different from the definition for "battle stands" that is used in the Bring It! television series.

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Swac (n) - from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southwestern_Athletic_Conference
"The Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) is a collegiate athletic conference headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, which is made up of historically black universities (HBCUs) in the Southern United States. It participates in the NCAA's Division I for all sports; in football, it participates in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), still frequently referred to by its former designation of Division I-AA.
The SWAC is widely considered the premier HBCU conference and ranks among the elite in the nation in terms of alumni affiliated with professional sports teams, particularly in football"

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Tail (n)- the tail is the HBCU majorette dance position that is the second most important position in the dance squad (after the captain); a tail is usually one of the tallest dancers, but must also be a strong dancer; because the members of the dance line are arranged by height, the tail is usually in the last (horizontal) row of dancers; at the end of stand routines, the tail is known to exaggerate her end movements, as if she is dancing in slow motion, and otherwise draw attention to herself.
-snip-
The term "ace" and "tail" is also used in historically Black Greek letter fraternities and sororities for the first and the last member of a vertical row (line) of aspiring members of that Greek letter organizations. As is the case with HBCU dance lines, in BGLO (Black Greek letter organizations), the members are lined up by height with the tallest person at the end.
-snip-
Added 8/3/2016 - My daughter reminded me that in BGLO (historically) Black Greek letter organizations, the last person usually exaggerates his or her movements, moving in slow motion, and does extra ("show out", meaning being a show off in a good way). This exaggerated, slow motion movement can especially be seen during a ripple (the movement is done in a staggered manner, each person does the same movement or similar movements, one right after each other).

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Throw Counts -(v) a term which refers to the action by the majorette dance line's captain in designating which count is to be performed; the action of performing counts, (also sometimes given as "throwing stands", or "throwing cadences")

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Uniforms (n) - the outfits that the majorette dance line wears; "costume" is an incorrect referent for these outfits

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Thanks to all those who have been or are now involved in HBCU majorette dance lines. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post.

The content of this post is presented for historical and cultural purpose.

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